Inaugural NGO Watch sees human rights come to fore

Human rights issues surrounding Iraq and the US dominate PRWeek’s inaugural NGO Watch, which ranks charity and voluntary sector groups in terms of the media coverage they generate.

Topping the survey is Amnesty International UK, which gained 150 mentions, the most of any charity in the UK print and online media during April.

According to Infonic, the reputation and intelligence firm that compiled the survey exclusively for PRWeek, Amnesty topped the poll due to its campaigns calling for independent human rights monitoring in Iraq and fairer treatment of three teenagers being held by the US at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

It also performed well due to widespread coverage of its calls for a public inquiry into the murder of Belfast solicitor Pat Finucane.

The treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo and human rights in Iraq also saw Human Rights Watch perform well, putting the body in second place with 136 mentions.

HRW was particularly effective in supplying the media with background knowledge of human rights abuses under the Saddam Hussain regime, and in its criticism of the bombing of civilian areas by the US.

The Iraq war’s dominance of the news agenda makes Cancer Research UK’s achievement of claiming third spot, with 113 mentions, all the more impressive, according to Infonic.

Two campaigns by the charity stood out during April – its work on breast cancer detection rates and promotion of its Race of Life event, which takes place in the summer.

Also appearing in the top five, but with significantly fewer mentions, was Oxfam on 80 and Friends of the Earth on 62. Oxfam’s coverage was again focused in Iraq, while FoE gained coverage for criticising oil giant Shell and for its anti-GM foods lobbying.

Just missing out on a top five slot were Greenpeace (56 mentions) and Christian Aid (26 mentions). Amnesty International UK head of press Lesley Warren said the charity hopes to maintain its strong performance throughout May and into June with further media campaigns.

These include a report on human rights abuses in Zimbabwe, a protest over homophobia in Egypt and, at the end of May, the release of the charity’s annual report.

Warren predicts May’s news agenda is set to give a higher prominence to race relations and asylum seeker issues. This is expected to follow the local elections, in which the BNP are fielding candidates.

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